As I’ve mentioned in other posts, my goal was to make just enough money doing freelance public relations until I “caught my break.” In 2017, one of my existing clients asked me if I wanted to go from a 1099 employee to a W-2 employee. Having my taxes directly taken out of my check seemed like a no brainer, so I signed up. What I didn’t realize at the time was I wouldn’t be able to pay my 2016 taxes because I wasn’t anticipating how much money was coming out of my checks. And I didn’t have enough freelance PR business to back fill the deficit. By the time April rolled around, I owed a nice chunk of change to the IRS. I explored my options – payment plan, extension or bite the bullet and put it on my credit card. I opted for the credit card.
Now $5,000 in debt, I started exploring other options to limit the damage. Side note – I realize $5,000 in debt doesn’t seem like a lot, but having spent a considerable amount of time paying off a gold card I carried through college and a student loan, I prefer being in the black than the red. I looked at taking a loan from my 401k, a life insurance policy, or a balance transfer credit card. I opted for a Discover card with an 18 month, 0% balance transfer. I thought, “I’ll file my taxes as soon as I possibly can in 2018 and I should be in the clear.”
Being in debt sucks. There was a period of time where I ate potatoes and peanut butter for lunch to cut costs. I didn’t go out on weekends. I drank Carlo Rossi Paisano wine ($9.99 for a 5 gallon jug at Rite Aid). I didn’t date. Debt more or less forced me to live a hermit lifestyle, which is particularly tough in Los Angeles because it’s easy to feel isolated if you don’t make the effort to see and spend time with your friends. And it’s particularly challenging to pursue an acting career when you’re living thin.
I filed my 2017 taxes on February 22, 2018. I looked forward to getting my refund and significantly reducing my stress. If only. In March, I received a letter from the IRS saying they were looking into my return. I called and spoke with an agent to get a sense of what was happening. They said call back in 60 days. I did. I called in early June. They put my return out for referral, which basically means someone has to review the return and make a decision to release the funds or determine what’s wrong with the return. No movement. I called back in mid-July. I found out the money my client reported did not match up with the social security number on my return. My client had made a clerical error on my W-2. My employee identification number, which I use for my 1099s, was in the W-2 box where my social security number should have been. F*ck.
I requested a corrected W-2 from my client and submitted it to the IRS just after Labor Day. I called to confirm receipt. Sixty more days. I called back in mid-November. They said the only way to expedite the return since it already went out to referral once was to claim financial hardship. Having watched my credit score fluctuate all year along with my debt was enough to have the release sent out for referral again.
Two weeks ago, I spoke with my referral agent. Per his recommendation, I requested a letter from my company confirming what they paid me and how much was taken out for taxes and faxed it to him. I asked him about the corrected W-2 I submitted and he said the office is so far behind, they won’t even get to that for another two to three YEARS. Hopefully, within the next two weeks, my return will be cleared and I will receive my refund.
In the meantime, I landed three new PR accounts in the last month, effectively doubling my income. I can’t wait to have the weight of debt lifted off my shoulders. And I’m already thinking about a much needed vacation. What’s a cost effective place to go?
I played football my first year of high school. I was 5’8″, 125 pounds. I had one catch for seven yards, an interception, and a permanent pit of fear in my stomach I’d receive the kick off and get bent into a pretzel during the return. The daily bullying during practice from two team members didn’t improve my outlook. I soon realized football wasn’t my calling.
During the summer between my first year and sophomore year, I told my father I wanted to play golf. He said, “You’re running cross country.” His house, his rules. I joined the cross country team.
My first day of cross country practice, I wore my brand new Nikes. We did what we reverently referred to as a Zulu run. We ran a mile and a half to the Indian Boundary Forest Preserve. Then we were supposed to run three miles through the Forest Preserve and then two miles back to school. When we arrived, we saw heavy thunderstorms caused the North Branch of the Chicago River to overflow its banks. Undaunted, we walked the mile or so in thigh high water through the Forest Preserve and run back to school. I was hooked.
I ran cross country for the remaining three years of high school and all four years of college. I have several great memories from running cross country – winning conference individually my junior year of high school, finishing eighth as a team my sophomore year in high school, finishing seventh in the state my senior year of high school. And while I spent most of my collegiate running career addressing injuries, it still deeply affected my life.
To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
Here’s how cross country changed my life:
Each year, we set goals to kick off the year, both individual and team. That’s the beauty of cross country – you’re competing individually and as a team. And you spend each week training to achieve your goals.
Your mind wants to protect you. It will tell you to slow down or stop. There’s no shortage of stop signs – muscle cramps, muscle soreness, stress fractures, side stitches, shin splints, etc. Over time, you learn to push your body and understand and surpass its perceived limits.
There’s only one way to progress. Run farther. Run faster. Run farther faster. Each day, practice is different and designed to increase your ability to run farther faster – base miles (building your mileage), tempo runs (steady pace), fartleks (speed up and slow down), intervals (speed work). Take a day off training and you suffer the next day.
My junior year of high school, I finished 15th in the sectional meet. I missed running in the state meet by one place. My junior year of college, I had a stress fracture in my left femur. My senior year of college I had plantar fasciitis. Each time you experience a setback or sustain an injury, you have to start back and square one again. And I did.
I like being in shape. After I graduated college, I packed on a bunch of weight because I was eating the same and not running. Two years ago, I started working out religiously again because I wanted to get back into shape. When I’m stressed, I go for a walk. I try to walk at least six times a week. I see the benefit. I feel the benefit.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of running cross country was the people I met along the way. Runners, like artists, tend to be a different breed. They run because they love running, not necessarily for accolades. There’s a community – they cheer the last runner as much as, if not more than, the first. There’s a sense of running into battle together.
Interestingly enough, running cross country and acting have similarities. We have our individual goals – I have my personal objective and tactics in our scene – but we’re operating as a team – actors, director, DP, lighting, sound, etc. We’re working together to tell the story. It requires ongoing, specific training – improvisation, script analysis, cold reading, on-camera techniques, audition, etc. It requires stamina. And I’ve met some really great people along the way. I love running. I love acting. Let’s run together.
My friend, Ashley, works for HipDot, which promotes shopping on its site through facebook live broadcasts. If you’ve been on facebook recently, you saw the kickstarter video for RompHim, a romper for men. Ashley suggested a parody to her bosses. They green lighted it. Here’s the result. Glad to play a part. I’ll add that women’s rompers are quite comfortable, although I’m not sure how to best navigate using the bathroom with them on, I got a nice spaghetti strap tan line on my shoulder, and I wish they were made of moisture wicking material. I’ll also add it was a blast too see support from both shop owners on Larchmont Ave (we’ll gladly take a picture with you) and the LAPD (thanks for snapping a pic as well).